A lawyer with hearings before Floyd County Circuit Judge Marc Long Tuesday noted my jeans with a tear near my right knee and asked: “Are you in fashion or in need of clothing advice?”
On a normal day of covering court for The Floyd Press or other media outlets, I dress in jeans, a sport short and sneakers or motorcycle boots, depending on whether or not I used two or four wheels for transportation for that visit.
When asked what has or has not changed over the years in what I do for a living, I think clothing ranks as the most possible difference.
When Amy and I moved from the National Capital Region of Washington, DC, in 2004, I donated most of my suits, dress shirts and other such attire to Angels in the Attic or Goodwill.
I kept two suits: One a gray pinstripe and the other in black, for weddings and funerals, along with a pair of wing-tip shoes, a couple of white dress shirts, a few ties, cufflinks and the like.
My daily, and most often used, attire are jeans, t-shirts (often with motorcycle logos), a few knit and sports shorts two pairs of sneakers and the motorcycle boots.
Nowadays, the jeans come mostly from Angels in the Attic and underclothes from bargain stores. Amy also dresses in jeans and the like but still has several nice skirt and dresses in the closet if needed.
When I started working for The Roanoke Times in 1965, the expected attire was a dress shirt, tie, sports coat and dress slacks or a suit. We wore our hair short and, for the most part, were unshaven. Women staffers wore dresses or skirts, not slacks, for the most part.
If my hair grew too long, the managing editor would say something like “do you need time to get a haircut?” Hint received and taken care of.
Same, for the most part, after I moved on to The Telegraph in Alton, Illinois, in 1969 but things started to change. Some reporters would show up in open collar shirts and jeans. No one said anything when I let my hair grow and grew a beard. By 1973, I showed up most days at the office in jeans and a casual shirt.
Trips to cover the Illinois statehouse in Springfield required a coat and tie. Same for coverage of governmental bodies but my attire remained more casual in other settings.
When we moved to the Washington area in 1981, and I took a job for a Congressman, the work attire returned to suits. I had a beard but the long hair got trimmed more often. By the time I became Vice President for Political Programs for The National Association of Realtors, my suits became tailored with fancy Turnbull & Asser shirts from London, braces (suspenders) from Trafalgar, and fancy silk ties.
I had a tuxedo in the closet for formal events, Amy had a collection of evening gowns and accompanying accessories. We danced at inaugural balls, attended Presidential dinners and played the part.
Then I gave up the political life and returned to journalism and my attire took a sharp turn back to the casual. I dressed casual while covering a routine event at the State Department on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, and spent the following day and night in the same clothing while photographing the carnage at the Pentagon.
We dressed up for some events but, for the most part, our lives and attire became more and more casual.
Since moving to Floyd in 2004, the casualness increased. My last time in a suit was in the Floyd County courthouse a few years ago when testifying as an “expert witness” for an attorney’s case.
With luck, I will not need one of the suits anytime in the near future. I’d rather dress comfortably and to hell with style.